In Pennsylvania, assault can be generally defined as causing or attempting to cause bodily harm to someone else or making someone fear that they are going to sustain bodily harm. This means that a defendant can be convicted of assault even if he or she did not actually cause bodily harm to another person. The assault charges lawyers know that this makes some assault cases very subjective because it has to be determined whether or not a defendant attempted to cause harm or if an alleged victim actually believed he or she was going to be physically harmed by the accused.
Pennsylvania assaults are either simple assaults or aggravated assaults. Simple assault generally includes either minor injuries or no injuries at all. In simple assault cases the prosecutor will try to prove that the defendant caused bodily injury to another, that the defendant attempted to cause bodily injury, or that the defendant caused another to fear that the defendant was going to cause them bodily injury. Aggravated assault is more serious, often involving serious injuries or assaults where public officers or school officials are the alleged victims.
Defenses to an assault charge
Common defenses to assault charges include the following:
- Self defense or defending someone else – a defendant may argue that he or she caused bodily harm to another in order to protect the defendant or a third person from bodily harm.
- Provocation – provocation may be a defense to assault if the other person deliberately provoked the defendant.
- The defendant did not intend to harm the other person.
- The defendant was falsely accused – this frequently happens in domestic situations where one person falsely and maliciously claims that he or she was the victim of an assault.
- The defendant’s actions were misinterpreted by the person who feared that the defendant was going to cause him or her bodily harm.
Assault conviction penalties and consequences
When you are convicted of assault you will not only have a criminal record, but you may face fines, jail, and probation. Your jail time may be extended if the assault was against a public officer such as a policeman, firefighter, or parole officer. Other harmful consequences may include losing your job and being unable to get a job in the future due to having a criminal record. You may have child custody and immigration complications as well. An assault conviction may harm your reputation and cause shame and embarrassment to your family.